There comes a time when every legend has to become legendary. And Raul’s has come.
Raul, the symbol of Madrid and a fine example of someone who valued the crest on his front rather than the name on the back.
What stands out in Raul’s illustrious career so far is how he has carried himself with so much class, on and off the field. Fantastic person, he always stayed off the limelight and was shy of controversy. He was a loyal servant of the club and his trademark celebration wherein he kisses his wedding ring after scoring a goal, man that was iconic! Beautiful stuff.
Sure enough, he isn’t retiring, but football will be poorer when he does. I kind of know how most Madridistas feel, because last season Maldini bidding farewell to us Milanistas was just as hard to swallow, if not even more. And in a way, I’d wish if Raul simply retired as a Madrid player rather than go ply his trade in some other club, but if he feels he’s still got it in him, well that’s his choice. I somehow always wanted Raul to retire at Madrid and remain a one-club man, because he’s someone who fully deserves to be one.
His trophy-haul is fantastic to say the least. 6 La Liga titles and 3 CL titles stand out. I always loved watching Raul; you have plenty of guys who come up with all the fancy stuff, tricks and step-overs and the likes, but Raul kept it more simple and all the more classy. A delicate lob or a chip, a flick here and there, pure unadulterated class. Raul is the Champion’s League all time leading scorer for a reason!
The only blemish on his CV will probably be his misguided adventure with La Furia Roja and it was somewhat ironic that Spain would go on to win the Euro and the WC just when his services were no longer needed. But that should not take too much away from his glittering career.
Raul has seen 17 coaches and has played with (and in most cases captained) some of the greatest players ever. Laudrup, Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo and so on. And through all this, he’s always been respected by his peers and elders. He’s behaved with grace and set a beautiful example throughout. I can’t even remember him missing training or caught partying late night or in some extreme cases, sleeping with his team-mate’s wife! =P
Raul is to Madrid what Maldini was to Milan, Del Piero is to Juve, Totti to Roma, Gerrard to Liverpool and so on. They are more than just players. Club symbols, that’s what they are. Raul will be part of Madrid’s legacy for years to come and will be remembered. He might have never been their best player, but that was something he never was. When I think of Herb Brook’s quote from ‘The Miracle’, “Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone”, I somehow draw parallels with this man. His youth coach once said that Raul was never the fastest, the strongest, the most skilled, the technically gifted or the smartest or anything of that sort, but yet above all that he had unwavering discipline, commitment, work-ethic and heart, which is why he is where he is now. He was always hungry for goals, always.
Raul would know where the goal was even with his back turned; he had an uncanny ability to be in the right place, at the right time. How many times have we seen Raul pop up in the 89th minute to poke in an invaluable goal? A powerful low shot driven into the corner or his famed vaselina over an onrushing keeper? Or an audaciously high leap to head the ball into the top corner?
Raul defined class throughout and it’s pretty obvious that players of his sort are a rarer bunch these days. Players like Maldini, Totti, Del Piero and of course Raul stood by the club through thick and thin, respected and valued the club beyond anything. Last year, as Raul’s significance faded in the club with the arrival of Galacticos 2.0, Raul accepted his place on the bench with grace and always scored a goal or two when called upon. Not a word of complaint whatsoever from Madrid’s all time leading scorer.
It will be unusual to see a Madrid squad without Raul in it. He defined the club in many ways and will be missed on and off the field. Raul will be remembered for years to come as one of the club’s most loyal servants ever. If anything, Bernabéu will miss him scoring a last minute equalizer followed by him kissing his wedding-ring and pointing to the back of his shirt; reminding everyone that once upon a time this team, and rightly so, was always Raul Madrid!